By JOHN T. WARD
Almost six months after they were submitted and three months after they were the subject of hasty presentations, five proposed plans for the redevelopment of Red Bank’s main downtown parking lot will finally get a public hearing, redbankgreen has learned.
Councilman Mike Whelan, who chairs the borough government’s parking committee, said a session to solicit public input has been scheduled for Wednesday, September 27, at the Red Bank Primary School on River Street.
The hearing will follow the council’s regular semimonthly meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at borough hall, but discussions were underway about the possibility of moving the council meeting to the school so the parking event could follow without delay, Whelan said Friday.
All five developers have been invited to participate, Whelan said, in what will be the public’s first formal opportunity to address elected officials about the concept plans. Until now, he said, council members had to remain mum on the advice of lawyers because of a pending lawsuit filed by former councilwoman Cindy Burnham.
“We’re finally ready to talk about it,” he said.
What changed? Whelan wouldn’t say, but said the answer will be made clearer at this week’s council meeting, slated for Wednesday evening. “We’ll be speaking more about the litigation and the RFP [Request for Proposals] process and a path forward after months in litigation,” he said.
Lawyer Ron Gasiorowski, who’s representing Burnham in the lawsuit, said he didn’t know what had changed. He said the litigation has been “kind of on hold” since a case management conference with the judge about three weeks ago.
“Supposedly, the council is giving consideration with regard to the whole concept,” he told redbankgreen. “It’s my understanding they didn’t like any of the proposals as far as size of the buildings. That’s all I really know.
“I’m as anxious as you are to hear what they have to say Wednesday,” he said.
In May, weeks before the developer presentations, the council’s three Democrats rejected the five proposals as “ridiculous” in scale and vowed “staunch opposition” to all. They later said that they favor a garage-only solution for the site.
Gasiorowski said he had been prepared to take the deposition of the borough planner but put that on hold until it becomes clear what the council might do.
Since the proposals were submitted in April, the parking committee held a round-robin of presentations by the five would-be redevelopers of the 2.3-acre parking lot. The builders got 15 minutes apiece to detail their ideas. But the public was not permitted to comment or ask questions at that June 15 session.
The Red Bank Business Alliance held a public forum on parking a month later at the middle school.
In the interim, at least one of the proposals has undergone significant changes.
Roger Mumford, the only local contender among the five, has eliminated a 12-story condo building with a beacon of several additional stories from his concept plan, he told redbankgreen recently. The structure would have been sited at the eastern end of the parking lot property, opposite English Plaza.
Instead, he now proposes to erect a parking garage on the portion of the site reaching from the Nemo tile building to Drummond Place, which he would extend so that it connects Monmouth and White Streets. Stretching out the garage means that it “won’t be as tall as if it were condensed” into a smaller footprint, Mumford said.
As called for by the council in the RFP, the garage would create a net gain of 500 parking spaces to the property, and do so without the use of “shared”parking in which residents of proposed housing and shoppers use the same slots at different times of day.
Red Bank RiverCenter, the downtown promotion agency, has said it “cannot and will not” support any plan that provides less than 500 spaces over an above the existing 273. His is the only proposal that meets the minimum parking criteria without shared parking, Mumford says.
Mumford also plans to construct an eight-story residential building of about 100 units on the portion between the extended Drummond Place and the eastern edge of the Atlantic Glass property. The building would connect with the parking garage by means of a skybridge in order to meet some of the residential parking need, though those spaces will not affect the net gain locals officials and business owners demand, he said.
Mumford has options to acquire the Atlantic Glass property and one just to the south of it, at Maple Avenue and Monmouth Street, that’s used as parking for Buona Sera restaurant. Both are outside the redevelopment zone and would be developed after the White Street garage is completed, Mumford said. Meantime, he said, they could be used for interim shopper parking while the garage is under construction.
Separately, downtown property owner John Bowers has urged the borough to build a garage, without housing or new businesses, on the site.